Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud yesterday met the relatives of the five missing Berbice fishermen and he assured them that all efforts are being made by Guyanese and the Suriname authorities to locate the fishers.
According to a release from the Government Information Agency (GINA), Persaud told the families at the Number 66 Village, Corentyne, home of one of the men that a coordinated effort is being undertaken by land air and water between the two countries in locating the men.
Those missing since the August 6th expedition are Khemraj Dhanpat and his brother Narine Dhanpat, Clifford Singh, Ouditnarine Ramnarine and Suresh Martin.
Persaud told the families that, “We must be reminded that this took place in the jurisdiction of Suriname, so we are heavily dependent and reliant on the Surinamese authority and enforcement entities taking enforcement actions”. He said too that, “Already communication has been made with Suriname and they have started searching by air, land and sea”. He said that the incident, ”reminds us of the peril and dangers that our fisher folks face”.
GINA noted too that the local coastguard was patrolling the area as search efforts intensify for the men.
Persaud noted that taking the steps towards enforcement in the fishing areas can be a complicated task at times and he noted that using the current incident as an example, the length of time before there was an indication and notification that something was wrong, is an indication of how difficult it is to track and manage and respond, to dangers at sea.
“Perhaps if there was earlier notification and some form of communication it would have been much easier to track and to monitor the situation,” he said.
“One can understand the hurt of the families and the sense of loss and also the anxiety, but I want to assure that all the steps are being taken,” he assured the families.
According to the release, Persaud has communicated the incident to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett who is in Argentina and she is expected to meet her Surinamese counter-part to look at additional steps that the Surinamese authorities can take in the search for the missing men.
The relatives of the fishermen as well as local fishermen and friends have been patrolling Suriname’s waters in search of the men. They have been concentrating their efforts
on areas they believe persons could hide as well as those areas they believe the fishermen could have been dropped off by pirates, GINA stated.
According to GINA, Persaud promised to provide the names of those persons who are willing to assist with search efforts, to the Surinamese authorities, and also to make arrangements for the volunteers to accompany the Suriname’s coast guards.
The families also stated their willingness to pay for any lead that will assist in finding the missing men and any ransom required.
Persaud yesterday identified a representative from the Fisheries Department in the region to regularly update the families on the search and according to GINA, the Agriculture Ministry is also working closely with the Number 66 Fishing Coop Society to look at ways in which the body can provide economic support to the families of the men.
The five men had failed to return to shore after a 10-day trip and the boat’s owner, Gajadar Bishnauth stated that after the time period elapsed he became worried and launched a search for the men.
He received a report from Suriname that the vessel was found in that country and he travelled to the area where he confirmed the information.
He expressed the view that the men were attacked by pirates since there was no other explanation for their disappearance.